NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 3: Psychology of Exercise
NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 3: Psychology of Exercise 1

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Chapter Goals:

  • Be able to describe the common reasons why people avoid regular exercise.
  • Determine the various social influences on exercise adherence.
  • Recommend better forms of support for helping clients adhere to exercise.
  • Find the psychological benefits associated with regular exercise.

The Role of Psychology in Fitness and Wellness

Psychology plays an essential role when it comes to fitness and wellness. It deals with many topics like the way exercise participation affects someone’s mood in the short and long term, the effects of weight loss and someone’s self-esteem, the motivations for becoming physically active, and how social influences affect overall behavior in exercise.

One of the best things to know as a trainer is how psychology affects the behavior change process.

The Science of Psychology

Psychology is focused on how the mind and feelings may influence some behaviors. It also examines the relationship between brain functionality and human behavior and the environmental effect on behavior.

Psychologists and psychiatrists are employed in many areas within healthcare, educational settings, counseling, law enforcement, and even athletics.

Motivation

Motivation is the term used to describe the intensity and direction of someone’s efforts. Intensity is similar, but it refers to the amount of effort expended, and direction is a term asking whether or not someone seeks out a behavior. 

Differences in motivation may be seen based on culture, socioeconomic status, or the surrounding environment. 

When someone is not motivated to do something, it is called amotivation.

If someone is amotivated to exercise, they may not participate. If they do, they only go through the motions without any intensity or belief in the positive outcomes that exercise may yield.

Extrinsic motivation focuses on doing an activity for recognition, like a trophy or some award. This relies on looking for something when behavior is achieved.

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Intrinsic motivation is more associated with long-term adherence to adherence, which comes from within a person. This is someone who does an activity for the sake of the activity and the enjoyment of participating in it. 

Most people actually have a combination of these two forms of motivation, so it is important not to focus on only one. 

Motivation differs greatly from person to person, and understanding this is useful for establishing and growing your client base.

Common Barriers to Exercise

There is overwhelming evidence that exercise done regularly will give people many physical and psychological benefits, but there are still many barriers to getting into exercise.

A barrier is anything that prevents a person from exercising, even if it occurs one or many times.

The fitness professional has the role of helping the clients to find their personal barriers and then helping them with strategies for overcoming those barriers. Barriers may be constant or one-time events.

The barriers people have will change as people get older and as their responsibilities shift.

Time

This is cited as a barrier to many healthy behaviors like exercise, proper food intake, and overall stress management.

Balancing everything we do in our life can be a struggle, and this comes to the issue of time management. 

This is often seen as the greatest barrier to getting into the exercise world. 

One way to overcome the perceived barrier of lacking time is to help the clients address their approaches to managing time. 

Unrealistic Goals

Setting goals is vital when working with clients so that expectations are both realistic and challenging. The newer exercises will often fall into the trap of setting unrealistic goals and then getting frustrated when goals have not been met. 

There are two types of goals we can set. Outcome goals are ones where the focus is on the outcome, such as placing top 5 in a marathon. The other form of goal is a process goal, which focuses on the process you are working on, like jogging for 45 minutes 5 days out a week.

Lack of Social Support

Social support refers to the intentional actions taken by people for the assistance of achieving some behavior. Lacking this support can make it hard to participate in regular exercise, depending on the needed support.

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People who lack social support may lack these things:

  • Encouragement to participate in exercise
  • Someone who can discuss the challenges of exercise
  • Transportation to a gym
  • The ability to find good and accurate info on health and fitness
  • A partner for exercise

Social Physique Anxiety

This is when someone feels significant anxiety about their physical appearance and is insecure about how others see them or perceive their own body.

Convenience

Everyone prefers this; in general, most people will avoid any inconvenient activity. 

Ambivalence

This happens when someone has mixed feelings regarding their situation.

There usually are positive and negative components to how a thing is perceived. People believe exercise is generally good for them, but it cuts into time they could spend in other areas of their life.

Social Influences on Exercise

There are many potential influences on overall exercise behavior, which vary among people. Determining the social influences that are meaningful for a person will help to explain the role that the influences might play regarding exercise behavior.

These social influences are often present in exercise behavior, and these can lead to and away from structured exercise.

Types of Support

Instrumental support describes the actual actions of someone that help someone else engage in the behavior.

Examples:

  • Providing transportation to a fitness facility
  • Paying for someone’s gym membership
  • Watching children allow a parent to exercise

Emotional support is considered to be vital for people starting and continuing a program for exercise. It is about encouragement and positive reinforcement provided and includes empathy, caring, and showing concern.

Examples:

  • Encouraging someone to exercise
  • Providing positive feedback
  • Listening to someone when they are frustrated with exercise
  • Being empathetic by communicating an understanding of how someone feels

Informational support is when someone receives accurate information regarding behavior and a topic.

Examples:

  • Giving sound advice about how to achieve optimal health and fitness
  • Providing education about the current recommendations for physical activity
  • Educating people about the risk of poor health accompanying a sedentary lifestyle

Companionship Support is when someone engages in a behavior alongside another person.

Examples:

  • Exercising with someone
  • Accompanying someone during an exercise session
  • Finding physically active options for social gatherings

Group Influences on Exercise

Groups play a large role in the decision-making process. Support can be given in the countless ways previously mentioned, but who provides it is equally important. 

Family

Family is one of the better influences for most behaviors in our life, especially for kids. And these influences remain strong throughout your life. 

Parental

The influences of parents on exercise behavior are important again for kids. When parents have a positive relationship with exercise, their children will likely have a positive relationship.

Exercise Leaders

Group exercise comes in so many forms and is found in many studio types. It is important to look at the different qualities and styles of the leader of an exercise, as well as the followers’ situational factors and qualities. 

The benefits of Group Exercise are:

  • Accountability
  • Comparison
  • Competition
  • Comradery
  • Consistency
  • Energy
  • Intensity
  • Mindless
  • Motivation
  • Sociability

Psychological Benefits of Exercise

Promotes a Positive Mood

The term mood refers to how someone is feeling, and it is considered to be a longer term state of mind, unlike that of emotion, which is shorter term. 

Improves Self-Esteem and Body Image

These two things are psychological variables associated with so many health concerns like depression, eating disorders, and exercise addiction.

Improves Sleep

Sleep is an important aspect of everyone’s day, and it decides more or less how someone will function throughout their day. 

Reduces Depression and Anxiety

Depression is a very common mental health issue affecting around 300 million people worldwide. Anxiety can be associated with depression but may occur on its own.

NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 3: Psychology of Exercise 2
NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 3: Psychology of Exercise 3
NASM CPT 7th Edition Chapter 3: Psychology of Exercise 4

Tyler Read

Tyler Read, BSc, CPT. Tyler holds a B.S. in Kinesiology from Sonoma State University and is a certified personal trainer (CPT) with NASM (National Academy of sports medicine), and has over 15 years of experience working as a personal trainer. He is a published author of running start, and a frequent contributing author on Healthline and Eat this, not that.

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